Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor C. Georgiadis
This work examines interconnected problems concerning representation, truth and belief in literature in the context of a moderate, rather than an absolute, conception of literary autonomy, and a broad, rather than a restrictive, conception of 'the aesthetic'.
In Chapter One the different types of representation are categorized and five 'characteristic' features of representation are presented. This analysis is applied to (a) linguistic representation in literature, (b) iconic representation in literature, and (c) symbolic and allegorical representation in literature. Chapter Two explores iconic representation in literature focussing on (i) sound associations, (ii) onomatopoeia, (iii) rhythm, and (iv) visual aspects of the text. The way these interact with linguistic representation is examined and their aesthetic significance is described.
Chapter Three is concerned with the ways in which Iiterature may represent or be about the real world, and the ways in which literature may be true to or of reality. Among the topics examined are literary sentences and themes. In analyzing the former we distinguish between literature and purely fictional literature and treat each separately. Sentences in purely fictional literature are not used to make explicit assertions about real phenomena and they are neither true nor false of reality. They represent in an 'internal' (or 'depictive' or 'presentational') sense. Literature, however, includes fictional and non-fictional sentences and may, therefore, contain assertive, referential sentences which represent in an internal and in an external sense, and which may be true (or false) of real phenomena. Arguments against this view are presented and criticized. A different way in which literature (including purely fictional literature) may be about, and be true to, reality, is by having theme. Thematic works are about more than the particular events depicted. In contemplating the work's theme or themes we relate the work to life. Sometimes the work's theme is presented through symbolic or allegorical representation.
Chapter Four delineates the essential role which the reader's beliefs (about what is true or false, good or bad) play in 'actualizing' the literary aesthetic object (including its 'world' and its aesthetic form).
Chapters Five, Six and Seven explore connections between truth, belief and aesthetic value. In Chapter Five it is argued that, though truth is not a necessary or a sufficient conditions of literary value, it often contributes to literary value by giving depth, power, resonance or wit to a work. Cognitive value sometimes enriches aesthetic value; cognitive judgements are sometimes reasons supporting aesthetic judgements.
In Chapter Six we acknowledge the fact that literary works informed by beliefs we do not share often win our 'imaginative consent'. But, we argue, reading literature as literature does not require of us a universal and undiscriminating imaginative acceptance of all beliefs in literature, including the idiotic, the insane, and the horrendously immoral. Some works arouse in us a cognitive or moral dissent that disrupts and impairs the quality of our aesthetic experience. Poor cognitive and moral value judgements can be reasons for aesthetic value; cognitive and moral judgements can be reasons for aesthetic judgements.
In Chapter Seven we examine Aristotle's Poetics with interpretative and philosophical aims. We criticize some modern attempts to read Aristotle as an absolute autonomist. We exhibit the connections he posits between truth to reality, 'form', and 'beauty', and also between moral belief and aesthetic emotion. Aristotle's remarks about 'character realism' provide the starting point for a discussion of its aesthetic relevance. We argue that out-of-character actions in literature are often, but not always, an aesthetic flaw, and we attempt to explain why this is so. Fyre's theory of fictional modes is used as a framework for this analysis.
O'Connor, Michael, "Representation, Truth and Belief in Literature" (1985). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1059.